As there was some good weather expected on Sunday, and Michael and I assumed most other attractions would be closed, we decided to head up Trsat Hill to see Trsat Castle. Sleeping in, we didn’t get going until noon, so we grabbed sandwiches on Korzo, the main shopping street in Rijeka, to eat on the way.
At the end of Korzo, is the Mrtvi Kanal, a branch of the Rječina, a river that flows into the Adriatic Sea. The water, like in the harbour, is amazingly clear. We had a great time walking along the waterfront, looking at the various moored boats and swimming fish.
On the other side of the canal, across a bridge, we found the Liberation Monument built in 1955 by Vinko Matković. Located on the former border between the Kingdoms of Italy and Yugoslavia, it was built in honor of the city’s Liberation Day on May 3, 1945. The site was also the former border that separated the town into two parts: the city of Rijeka and the city of Sušak; this monument therefore also honors the unification of Rijeka. The monument is around 30 metres high and features an obelisk shaped in the form of the letter “T” to honour Tito, the president of Yugoslavia from 1953-1980. On top of the obelisk are figures of fighters, personifying the power and success of the battle, in addition to the female figure of Victory, whose arms represent the greatness of freedom. On either side of the obelisk are engravings: those on the left are dedicated to the fallen soldiers who were the victims of Fascism, while those on the right show the recovery of the city with images of work, agriculture, and education in a time of freedom.
After taking in the Monument, we reached the base of Trsat hill and began our walk up. We took a roundabout route through residential neighbourhoods before coming across a stairway which cut straight up the hill. Known as the Stairs of Petar Kružić, they were named after the Croatian general who commenced its construction in 1531. As it leads straight to a monastery, in addition to Trsat Castle, there are Gothic and Baroque chapels along the way, which were built as vows of dignitaries.
At the top of the stairs was an abstract sculpture facing towards the port below. Titled “Marija”, it was dedicated to the mothers and wives of seamen. At its base, someone had recently left some flowers.
We arrived at the top of Trsat Hill just when the Easter services at the nearby church were ending and the many dressed up locals were heading to and around the castle for a nice lunch. I found it to be a nice atmosphere to experience as all I had seen of the city until then portrayed it as this grey and dreary dying town. It helped that it was a warm and sunny afternoon.
Dating back to the 13th century, Trsat Castle lies on a site that has been in use from Roman times due to its location on a steep hill overlooking the Rječina gorge on its left bank. In 1509, it was the site of the sole event linking Rijeka with Venice, and consequently with Italy, during the whole of its history from the 7th century on. During the Austro-Venetian War, Venetians captures the castle, which compelled a Croatian noble, Andrew Bot of Bajna, to recapture Trsat and expel the Venetians, returning the city to the Habsburgs. In the 17th century, the castle begin to fall into disuse and decay due to the receding threats from Venice and the Ottoman Empire – this decline was accelerated by an earthquake in 1750. During the Napoleonic wars, the castle was given to Field-Marshal Nugent, an Irishman then commanding the Austrian troops in the vicinity, for the purpose of conferring on him the rank of an Austrian noble. After being given the castle as his residence, he had it restored in the Neo-Gothic style. It remained in the Nugent family until the end of World War II, when the general’s great-granddaughter, a Countess, died. Today, the castle houses a restaurant and serves as a sort of park for locals.
After exploring the castle, we decided to grab some lunch at a hotel we had passed on our way up, followed by ice cream at a shop up the road. Finally sated, we took a quick look at the monastery across from the castle.
Known as Shrine of Our Lady of Trsat, it is the largest pilgrimage centre in Western Croatia. The foundation of the site, according to tradition, is related to the miraculous transport of the Nazareth Barn and its stay on Trsat, which lasted from 1291 to 1294. Pope John Paul II attended a pilgrimage procession here in 2003; two years later, a statue of him by Ante Jukica, known as the “Trsat Pilgrim”, was erected in front of the church.
At the bottom of the stairway was a mural by the Spanish artist Sebas Velasco. Entitled “Explorare Necesse Est”, the image is dedicated to the city’s industrial heritage and the workers who created it over the past decades/centuries. Created over four days in 2016, the project was initiated by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rijeka.
After walking back to downtown Rijeka, we decided to walk around a little more, the adventures of which can be read in the previous blog post about Rijeka’s downtown and harbour.